A few notes before I go into my review. Originally, “Speedball” Mike Bailey was going to be on the show. I believe he was scheduled to face Ethan Page, but unfortunately, travel issues prevented him from making the show. Sadly, it was later discovered that Mike Bailey ended up having major visas issues trying to go from Canada to the United States, and these issues led to him being barred from crossing the border into the United Sates for five years. This means that he won’t be appearing in any promotions in the United States for the foreseeable future.
There was also an appearance made before the show (for the live crowd only) by NXT General Manager William Regal who announced that Evolve would be hosting U.S. Qualifying Matches for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series, which would later be known as the WWE Cruiserweight Classic.
Queens, New York 3/19/16
1.) Sami Callihan vs. TJ Perkins: ***1/2
Callihan is actually coming off a stellar return to Evolve on the shows that took place several weeks prior during Royal Rumble Weekend. He was part of legitimate MOTYC on Evolve 53, where he (subbing for the injured Timothy Thatcher) teamed with Zack Sabre Jr. against Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero & Tommy End) as part of the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament. After their team was eliminated from the #1 Contender’s Tournament on Evolve 54 (interestingly enough, as the Catch Point duo of Drew Gulak and his opponent on this show, TJ Perkins), Callihan actually went on to defeat Zack Sabre Jr. at Evolve 55. He’s taking on TJ Perkins here in the opening match of Evolve 56, and I thought this was a pretty good match. I know a lot of people are critical of Callihan, but honestly, as of this point, I thought his return was going pretty well. He really had yet to have any subpar performances. Perkins, of course, looked great, as he always does. He never fails to amaze me in the ring with some of the things he can do. There were some really nice exchanges between the two, but in the end, TJ Perkins would get the submission victory over Callihan.
After the match, TJ Perkins cut a quick promo where he reminded everyone (including NXT General Manager William Regal) that he was a free agent.
2.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Jack Gallow: **1/2
As I mentioned earlier, I think “Speedball” Mike Bailey was originally scheduled to face Ethan Page, but he has his aforementioned travel issues, so a local wrestler by the name of Jack Gallow is getting an opportunity here. This was already. Gallow got some offense in, but as you would expect, Ethan Page got the win here in relatively quick fashion.
3.) Drew Gulak vs. Fred Yehi: ***1/4
Yehi is coming off a disappointing run in the 2016 Style Battle Tournament, where he went 0-2. He’s still searching for his first win in the promotion as he takes on the leader of Catch Point, Drew Gulak. I thought this match was good, but it didn’t think it was nearly as good as other reviews suggested. Again, it’s not like I thought the match was bad or anything. It was slow at times, and there were parts were I was getting a little bored, but I still thought the match was good. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as others seemingly did. Gulak would eventually get the win with a Dragon Sleeper, which (I believe) he calls the Gu-Lock.
After the match, Yehi requested a handshake. Gulak took the mic, and said that while he thought that Yehi had potential, he hadn’t earned a handshake just yet. Tracy Williams (Gulak’s protégé and Catch Point stablemate) comes out, and demands that Chris Hero come out to the ring for their match right now! He also tells Gulak to go to the back, saying that he can handle Hero.
4.) Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams: ****1/2
This issue goes back to Evolve 48, where Hero attacked and knocked out Drew Gulak, Tracy Williams, & Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher to end the show. I had a feeling that this match was going to be good, but it was even better than I could have imagined. I thought this was an awesome match!! Hero was, of course, his usual awesome self, and adds this match to his lengthy file of incredible matches in 2016. Tracy Williams was also really impressive here as well. When it comes to Evolve in 2016, I know all of the hype is surrounding Matt Riddle (as it should), but Tracy Williams deserves some credit as well. He’s really had a breakout year in 2016, and this was another great match from him. There was a lot of great, hard-hitting action between these two. In the end, Hero would go on to pick up the win, but I don’t think Williams lost anything in defeat.
After the match, Hero cuts a short promo where he starts referring to himself as “The Greatest of All-Time”.
5.) The Premiere Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley with Andrea) vs. Team Tremendous: ***
As I mentioned in some of my more recent Evolve reviews, it appeared at this point that The Premiere Athlete Brand was starting to wind down. They were completely blitzed in the both the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament and the #1 Contender’s Tournament, and Caleb Konley has been obsessed with Timothy Thatcher and the Evolve Title (and he would get his shot on the next show, Evolve 57). Here, they’re taking on Team Tremendous, who beat them in the first match of that #1 Contender’s Tournament at Evolve 54. Of course, Team Tremendous won that tournament, and will be getting the first shot at the Evolve Tag Team Titles at Evolve 57. While this match was decently good, it didn’t even come close to matching their encounter from Evolve 54. Interference from Andrea led to Konley picking up the win for his team. I’m curious as to why this match was booked, because you have your title contenders for the next show in this one match. If anything, Nese should have taken the fall, as he didn’t have a title shot of any kind at the time. Having Team Tremendous lose before their shot at the Evolve Tag Team Titles wasn’t smart, in my opinion.
6.) Best In The World Challenge Series – Match #1 – Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Johnny Gargano: ****1/2
This is the first match in Zack Sabre Jr.’s Best In The World Challenge Series, where he’s testing himself against some of the best competition Evolve has to offer. First up is the icon of Evolve, and WWNLive in general, Johnny Gargano. I really enjoyed this match. I thought it was awesome! These guys are two of the best wrestlers in the entire world, and they showed why in this match. There was just incredible stuff in this match from start to finish. What I thought was so cool about this match was that it was just as good as Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams from earlier in the show, but it was a completely different match. It’s honestly a tossup when it comes to MOTN, as both are worthy contenders. Eventually, Zack Sabre Jr. would score the submission victory over Gargano.
After the match, The Premiere Athlete Brand ran out and attacked Gargano, saying that were coming for the Evolve Tag Team Titles. Ethan Page comes out to make the save, in another attempt to prove to Johnny Gargano that he was a changed man. He would go on to tell Gargano that when Drew Galloway isn’t here, Ethan Page will have his back.
7.) Evolve World Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle: **3/4
This match has been building since Evolve 51, when in an impromptu Main Event, Riddle turned on Thatcher and aligned himself with Catch Point. I thought this match was a really mixed bag. The two had some fun exchanges, and it felt like they were building to a big conclusion, but then there was a weird finish where Thatcher did a “kind of/sort of” low blow, and then took him down with a headbutt to score the pin and retain his Evolve Title. Again, there were some flashes of a great match here, but it just ended so abruptly, and was a lot shorter than I was anticipating. The match wasn’t bad by any means, but for all of the hype it had received going in, it turned out to be pretty disappointing.
After the match, Drew Gulak (who was at ringside with the rest of Catch Point) got in the ring immediately and started chastising Thatcher for the way he won the match, saying that Thatcher cheated, and in doing so, was disgrace to the Evolve Title. Sami Callihan (who was getting a shot at the Evolve Title during the WWNLive Experience in Dallas) then came out of nowhere and attacked Thatcher. Tracy Williams quickly responded by attacking Callihan as the show came to a close.
As a whole, I thought this was a very strong show from Evolve, continuing the run of consistently good shows that has been going since September of 2014. You had two absolutely fantastic matches in the form of Chris Hero vs. Tracy Williams & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Johnny Gargano. Those two matches alone make this show worth checking out. You also had a really solid opener with Sami Callihan vs. TJ Perkins, and a relatively solid undercard. The only real knock on this show was the Main Event, which was definitely a disappointment. Other than this, this was definitely another really solid offering from Evolve.